January is the time for resolutions, and what is more important than your health? Now is the time to change your habits for the better, by either starting something that will benefit you, or stopping something that could harm you. Or, how about a little of both?
If you hope to make the best long-term impact on your health, we suggest at least one of the following resolutions.
Stop smoking. We know you’ve probably heard it before, but let’s review a few quick facts related to smoking cigarettes. According to the CDC, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people per year. Smoking is also linked to more than $170 billion in healthcare costs annually.
It’s important to note that every year, an estimated $41,000 deaths are attributed to secondhand smoke. So, your own habit could even affect someone you love.
Stop (or cut back on) drinking. Here are some more statistics from the CDC: Excessive alcohol use lead to more than 88,000 deaths annually. Perhaps even more importantly, heavy drinking shortens lifespans by an average of thirty years. Aside from car accidents, alcohol use can lead to mental health problems, dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, increased risk of stroke, and increased risk of many types of cancer. Drinking alcohol can be especially dangerous for those diagnosed with diabetes.
Generally speaking, doctors agree that an occasional drink won’t affect your long-term health. But if you’re a moderate to heavy, regular drinker, quitting can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself.
Kick the sugar habit. As far as unhealthy habits go, alcohol and cigarettes get most of the attention. But because a diet high in sugar causes inflammation, weight gain, and raises your risk of many chronic illnesses, conquering your sweet tooth can be as important as quitting smoking or drinking. Remember to read food labels, and look for words like “sucrose”, “fructose” and “high fructose corn syrup”. These are all just sneaky terms for sugar.
Start exercising. Maybe you’re not the quitting type, or perhaps starting something sounds a bit more motivating. Exercise has been linked to numerous positive health outcomes, from lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, to improved cognitive function and a longer lifespan overall. Aim to exercise at least thirty minutes per day, but remember to get your doctor’s input first.
As you improve your habits, keep attending your regular checkups. While the above resolutions can certainly improve your health, you still need to pursue regular preventive care.